Two tornadoes struck the outer edges of New York on Saturday, hurling debris into the air and knocking out power, but causing no serious injuries.
The first hit a beachfront neighborhood and the second, stronger tornado followed moments later about 16km away.
Videos taken by bystanders showed a funnel cloud sucking up water, then sand and then small pieces of buildings, as the first tornado moved through Breezy Point in Queens.
The second hit to the northwest, in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn also near the water, about seven minutes later. The National Weather Service said winds were up to 177kph and several homes and trees were damaged.
Residents had advance notice as the weather service issued a tornado warning for Queens and Brooklyn in the morning. The storm nevertheless took people by surprise when it struck 20 minutes later.
“I was showing videos of tornadoes to my four-year-old on my phone and two minutes later, it hit,” Breezy Point neighborhood resident Peter Maloney said. “Just like they always say, it sounded like a train.”
In the storm’s wake, the community of seaside bungalows was littered with broken flower pots, knocked-down fences and smashed windows.
At the Breezy Point Surf Club, the tornado ripped the roofs off rows of cabanas, scattered deck chairs and left a heavy metal barbecue and propane tank sitting in the middle of a softball field.
“It picked up picnic benches. It picked up dumpsters,” said the club’s general manager, Thomas Sullivan.
The second tornado tore through parts of Brooklyn with strong winds, causing structural damage to several homes and felling trees.
The tornado struck as part of a line of storms that had been expected to bring damaging winds, hail, heavy rain and possibly more tornadoes throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast states. More than 1,100 customers lost power in New York.
Across the state of New York, in Buffalo, strong winds from a broad front of thunderstorms blew roofing off some buildings and sent bricks falling into the street. More than 6,000 customers were without power in Warren County, another 1,500 or so were without power in other areas upstate and about 3,000 customers in the Hudson Valley were affected.
The city of Albany canceled the evening portion of an outdoor jazz festival because of the threat of storms and hundreds of upstate New York homes lost power as the weather system moved through.
In Oklahoma on Friday, a storm system killed four people, including a child.
Tornadoes were once exceedingly rare in New York, but they have occurred with regularity in recent years.